Summer Schedule Has McAdams Kicking Overtime

Anyone passing by the practice fields this early evening and noticing a football sailing on an obvious punt-arc, don't misunderstand. Don't get the notion Blake McAdams has dallied through the day or waited for cooler conditions before getting in the obligatory off-season kicks. McAdams has been busy…to say the least.

"It's been pretty hectic," the Mississippi State punter said of his July semester daily schedule. "I've had an internship from 8:00 to 5:00 whenever I can be there, and another class on top of that, then workouts. So it's been an all-day thing. And when I'm done with that I come out here and punt from 6:00 to 7:00 or something like that."

It's a wonder given this sort of grind McAdams still has the energy left to practice punting. Or, perhaps, that after a long-enough day's duties he doesn't unleash some steam and just boot a ball clean over Highway 82. Actually the ability to handle such a senior regimen and still take care of Bulldog business is an accurate reflection of the discipline McAdams brings to off- and on-field obligations.

The one which interests Bulldog fans most, naturally, is his kicking this senior summer. McAdams gives an encouraging evaluation. "I've been hitting it pretty well," he said, "especially in July. I've really been hitting it pretty good and got great hang time. Hopefully I keep it up."

Hopefully, indeed, given the degree which Mississippi State's gameplan—on both sides of the ball—depends on reliable kicking and coverage. McAdams did his part in 2007 with a 39.3 average on a career-high 77 punts. That was up from a sophomore-slump rate of 38.2 yards. Yet even improving his average by more than a yard has to be set in perspective.

"Our scheme was a little different so my distance wasn't what I expected," explained McAdams. To over-simplify, the Bulldogs tended—not always but often enough--to kick away from returns and towards sidelines. That took a statistical toll on McAdams' sheer numbers as such kicks don't go as far downfield or benefit from bounces.

"That's no excuse, it's just part of the game. But this year my goal is just try to be more consistent with every punt and try not to have any really bad ones."

And, maybe, get a couple of really good ones. Like that fourth-quarter boomer that Auburn let bounce…and roll, and roll, until it ended up 73 yards from the line of scrimmage. McAdams' career-long kick put the leading Tigers in a field position hole that they tried to pass out of, resulting in a game-changing interception and State's ensuing go-ahead drive.

For now, though, McAdams doesn't practice for ‘big' punts as those are pretty much uncontrollable anyway. His summer objective is consistent snap-to-contact time, height on the ball, and reliable distance. "You always want to be over forty, that's your main goal, and anything above that is great. But I don't set a certain average, I just go out there.

"I work on everything. Pooch punts you have to taper off some and keep the ball from going too far. But overall I work on it all full-speed and then back off a few. Because that's how it is in a game, you never know if you're going to have a full-punt or come in in a situation where you have a pooch punt or whatever. So you have to work yourself towards that."

And speaking of working towards situations, Bulldog kickers have their own training schedules in these final days leading up to August camp which opens Sunday. As placekicker Adam Carlson explained yesterday, these senior specialists know better than to over-work the leg in July. McAdams agrees, though he isn't quite as limited given his style of foot-work.

"We usually turn it on a little bit more and work our legs back into it in July," the punter said. "We kick about two days a week in June and about three days a week in July. I don't really put a set number on it. I go by kind of how my leg feels, if I start feeling tired I back off."

Well, not always. He admitted that there are July days he sometimes tries to "wear myself out some" to build endurance. But with August approaching good sense takes over and McAdams follows examples seen on another playing field. A prep baseball star, he briefly was on the Diamond Dog roster but spring and fall practice obligations effectively ended that career. Still he's seen what over-work can do to any applicable limb.

"You have to set your pitch count or kicking-count early and work your endurance up, then try to kick a lot early in July. Then the last week or so back off for camp so you'll be fresh again. In camp, we try to limit ourselves to just one practice a day. Because you can get dead-legged from kicking too much, wear yourself out and not be ready for the season.

"During the game week I'll set kind of a limit on how I do, but this time of year I try to wear myself out some. That way when you come into the season you have that endurance built up. But during the season I have a limit."

At the moment the real limit is the hours available each day to make his rounds. A clinical exercise physiology major, McAdams is working an internship at Oktibbeha County Hospital's Healthplex. That 8-to-5 day is not necessarily a solid block, and this month McAdams has mostly done his weight and conditioning work in Coach Ben Pollard's morning shift. Still he spends enough time at OCH assisting in physical therapy. He's discovered that the challenge is not the physical aspects; it's the quirks of human nature. "Just how to deal with people in that line of work," he said.

"I've been learning about the job, the type people you deal with and their attitudes towards re-hab. Some people are full-speed at it and some are like it hurts, they don't want to do it. It's kind of like being around football, not everybody wants to work out every day!"

There is an obvious irony here in that McAdams plays the most purely individual role on a football team. Not even return men appear to operate so solo as a punter. Yet here he is in a truly hands-on ‘people' profession. He said it's not such a change, really.

"I've just been around sports all my life, team sports. So I work with people. And" he reminds, "I've got to have my snapper getting me the ball. So you have to depend on people wherever you go."

And for that matter punting isn't really a one-man act to his mind. Snapper Aaron Feld has a hand, or two, in the proceedings as well. Schedule conflicts mean McAdams and Feld are lucky to have one day a week to practice together. Yes, he can punt the ball by himself with no more trouble than doing his own shagging. "But it's not good to go by yourself all the time, you don't get to catch and the timing can get off. So we try to go with snappers as much as we can. But we have plenty of time in camp to get that down."

Besides, McAdams is part of a kicking team himself as holder for Carlson's placekicks, off Feld's shorter snaps. That camaraderie allow each to critique the other as needed in practices, whether summer or in-season…and goodness knows the specialists have time to talk on weekday afternoons while offense and defense occupy the other practice fields. And the two senior specialists are together a lot anyway as roommates in an apartment on the east side of town, at Highlands Plantation. It's a convenient lodging for McAdams who…well, let him say it.

"I wouldn't call myself a golfer, I'd call myself a guy who likes to go play golf!" Not that he gets nearly enough rounds in these days, though McAdams says at the moment his driver is good while the chips (pooch shots?) aren't so reliable. As for his cohort, "I've tried to get Adam into it. He's played me a few times this year, I try to work him into it. He's in class, trying to graduate."

Both specialists will ‘graduate' from college football with the 2008 season, but between August 3 and the expected bowl game there's a lot of kicking to be done. "Adam came in a year before I did and redshirted, then I came in and we started playing. Just going through the downs of the first two years, then last year was a great year. And we're trying to finish out on an even better note."

Not that McAdams is asking for lots of live work, claiming he'd just as soon stay on the sideline while the offense drives the ball goal-ward every time. But he knows his talents and experience will be called on often again this senior season, so starting this Sunday it's back to work for one more fall.

"My goal is just to try to be consistent. Work on consistency and get my hang time and my average up some. I'll just keep doing what I've always done. Doing it for so long there's not a whole lot more I can do, other than just keep working hard at it."


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